The Seeds of Storytelling

When I was little I wanted to do many things. This lead to some interesting choices in ‘career day’ presentations throughout my elementary school career. I only remember presenting about becoming a veterinarian and another about becoming a fashion designer. Barbie could be everything; why couldn’t I? Looking back, I recognize that all along the different elements of my passions were present throughout my childhood in different forms. I even recognized an additional form recently.

We didn’t have quite the powerful feminist campaigning back in the late 90’s and 2000’s, I still remember the jingle saying, “Be who you wanna be, Barbie Girl.” That alone was inspiring.

I was fortunate enough to have a basket of Barbies, complete with their own 3 story, four foot Barbie house. The thing was taller than me for the majority of my time owning it. At some point with a box and some creative direction thanks to my Mom, we even made a school for all the Kelly dolls to go to. I wish I had pictures: it was incredible. I was an only child, so I had a lot of time to myself and spent much of it playing with my Barbies (and Bratz, but I had more Barbies). I could play for hours just with my Barbies and creating different stories and worlds to explore with them.

I vividly remember playing with Barbies with my best friend and the entire plots we’d come up with. There was one series of play sessions I remember where there were warring vampire factions that got so intense my best friend wound up ripping one of the dolls’s heads off. There were also a series of play sessions that focused on the differences of economic statures between the rich and the poor, somehow inspired by the movie Anastasia. (That much I remember clearly.)

As I got older, the story became that of playing pretend in the playground. We’d have intense play sessions there, too. Most of those play sessions were using existing characters and storylines from shows we loved, but we still would add our own twists. I remember one time where my best friend was possessed by Devimon and in order to save her we were going to have to kill her to free her from his possession. Explaining that to a recess aid who thought I was going to literally kill her is something I’ll never forget.

He was nasty though, like seriously. Poor T.K. and Patamon.

I already was crossing into roleplay territory with those games, however when I got to middle school I began to chat with my friends on AIM for roleplaying. It wasn’t so cool to be running around pretending anymore. By that time I had already started to try to write stories on my own. I still have ancient files from sixth grade of old stories I had started and never finished. Roleplaying on a chat messenger was approximately 50% of my life from the ages of 13-15. For a science project during this time we had to measure how much time we spent doing certain things in a day. I can’t remember what it was for, but I remember the outcome was that I spent 36 hours a week on the computer. And when I was on the computer I was always roleplaying. And that was before I spent every free moment roleplaying. It only stopped when our friendships faded.

More recently, I recognized that my pursuit of art and animation was to support storytelling. My art was either scenes, or character designs for different stories and universes. This recognition lead me to realize why I could never have a job in animation: I want to create my own stories, not work off of someone else’s. I’d even argue my art now continues to further my stories in one way or another. It’s rare for me to do an art piece for the sake of doing an art piece.

I fondly remember these moments from my childhood while reflecting on the evolution of my creative process. It reminds me of how far I’ve come in just 21 years of life and the possibilities of growth in the future.